FAST – Running a Race or Saving a Life?

February is Heart and Stroke awareness month. Last week we discussed the signs of a heart attack (chest pain/pressure, nausea, upper body pain), and this week our goal is to not only bring awareness, but to educate you on the basics of what a stroke is and how to identify if someone is having one. In our body, blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all organs. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is reduced or blocked, which causes brain cells to die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. A quick acronym you can use to identify if someone is having a stroke is ‘FAST’.

  • FACE- Is their face numb or drooping? Ask them to smile and look to see if one side of their face is drooping when they smile or is lopsided.
  • ARMS- Is there weakness in the arms? Ask them to raise both arms over their head and look to see if one arm drifts downward or if one side cannot be raised at all.
  • SPEECH- Are they slurring their words, looking confused, or are they difficult to understand? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence. Do they respond with errors?
  • TIME- Time to call 9-1-1 if you answered YES to any of the above signs. Even if these signs go away, they need medical attention immediately.Some other signs to look for are blurred vision, headache, or troubles walking.
  • Receiving immediate medical care is crucial because the longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the chance for permanent brain damage and complications. Educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of a stroke, and how to properly respond to someone having a stroke, will give you the power to save a life.
  • Last week we mentioned that if someone is having a heart attack, we want to give nitroglycerin spray or chew two 81mg aspirins. This is NOT the case for someone who is having a stroke and we do not give aspirin right away. The reason behind this is that there are two types of strokes; one being a blockage and one being a hemorrhage (bleed). We cannot always tell which type of stroke the person is having and giving aspirin to someone experiencing a hemorrhage stroke could be detrimental. Instead, call 911 immediately and have the person to sit down, rest, and stay calm until the ambulance arrives.
  • Sources:

Mike Harris is a 2nd year Waterloo Pharmacy Student (PharmD) who is completing his Co-op rotation at Brant Arts Dispensary in Burlington. Mike has spent time shadowing at Charlton Health while on his co-op. Prior to Pharmacy school Mike completed an Honours Specialization in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences at Western University.

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